production, consumption and trade trends; government policies and the future of the grains industry in Tanzania.
Tanzania has the potential to become the grains basket of Eastern Africa due to rising demand in neighbouring countries such as Kenya, vast arable land suitable for agriculture and copious amounts of water and suitable soils. With lots of underutilized natural resources – 76 percent of the arable land suitable for agriculture has not been cultivated – the country is one of the African countries that could be answer to the food insecurity issues that bedevil the Continent.
With the right government policies, the adoption of new technologies and enhanced investments in agriculture, analysts contend that Tanzania could feed its people and become a regional supplier of maize, sorghum/millet, sunflower, rice, legumes and other agricultural goods in a few years.
In this review, we take a deep dive into the production, consumption and trade trends; government policies and the future of the grains industry in Tanzania.
Maize production declines
Tanzania is the second largest producer of maize within the Eastern Africa region, where regional supply has been declining since 2019/2020 due to poor rainfalls and conflict-related disruptions, especially in South Sudan and Ethiopia.
According to Reliefweb, declining production levels have been reducing the volume of maize available for regional trade in surplus-producing countries of Uganda, Tanzania, and Ethiopia, which is projected to be 43 and 55 percent lower than 2021/22 and recent five-year average levels in 2022/23. Conversely, in maize deficit-producing countries (Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Rwanda, and Burundi), the 2022/23 requirements are expected to be 45 and 63 percent higher.
Tanzania could tap into the rising deficits in the region but is hampered by its overreliance on rain fed agriculture and low productivity of small holder farmers, who make up more than 90% of its total production of maize.
According to the USDA FAS, maize production in Tanzania in the 2022/23 corn production is forecast to decrease by about 16 percent to 5.9 million metric tons (MMT) due to drought conditions, fall armyworm infestations, and high fertilizer prices. The drought conditions also forced a fraction of the farmers to switch to alternative crops such as sunflower and cassava, particularly affecting the Southern Highlands region which produces more than half of Tanzania’s corn supply.
The USDA forecasts that in 2022/23 food, seed, and industrial consumption of maize is forecast to increase 1 percent to about 5.6 MMT largely due to higher demand from a growing population, which is growing at an annual rate of 2.9 percent; but increases in consumption will be limited by domestic production declines. Feed and residual consumption will increase 8 percent to 700,000 MT as Tanzania’s poultry sector increases output to supply a rebound in Tanzania’s tourism, hotel, and restaurant sectors, as COVID-19 conditions improve and travel to Tanzania bounces back.
Tanzania’s annual per capita consumption of corn is roughly 135 kilograms, with white maize providing 80 percent of dietary calories and more than 35 percent of utilizable protein in the country.
Maize exports from Tanzania are forecast to decline sharply to 100,000 MT in 2022/23 from 800,000 MT as Tanzania’s lower supply is directed to domestic consumption. In September 2022, Tanzania’s government dismissed claims by Kenyan traders that it had frozen the issuance of new maize export permits, urging them to follow procedures. “Tanzania hasn’t barred issuance of permits for maize exports and it is not planning to do so. Traders should follow crop export procedures including securing crop export permits that are issued free of charge,” said Agriculture Minister Hussein Bashe. Agricultural produce exporters, he said, a required to secure an export permit and a phytosanitary certificate. Foreign exporters are required to register their companies in Tanzania.
Maize imports are anticipated to remain flat at 20,000 M, which is predominately imports from South Africa and Zambia for seed use, yellow corn for animal feed and corn products such as corn oil and breakfast cereals.
Despite being a key maize producer, the state of food insecurity in Tanzania is not secured, since maize which is the most important agricultural crop has seen stagnating growth in the country. According to the 2021 the Government of Tanzania’s Comprehensive Food Security and Nutrition Assessment, 14 of Tanzania’s 172 councils experienced crisis levels of food insecurity, with 20 to 30 percent of the population in these counties experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity in 2021.
The government and the private sector investments in storage capacity continues to grow significantly to reduce post-harvest losses and to manage grain stocks and prices that swing back and forth across the year. In 2017, the country received a US$55 million loan from the Government of Poland to construct grain silos in eight zones, with completion dates expected by end of 2022/23. When complete, NFRA will be able to store 546,000 MT of maize per year, from the current 30 storage facilities with a total storage capacity of 246,000 MT.
The silos, operated by the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA), are being set up at Babati (Northern Region), Dodoma (Central Region), Makambako (Southern Highlands), Mbozi (Southern Highlands), Shinyanga (Lake Region), Songea (Southern Highlands), Sumbawanga (Southern Highlands) and Mpanda (West Region). Once complete, the government says the Agency will add more produce to its reserves, apart from the current maize, sorghum and rice.
According to the usda fas, maize production in tanzania in 2022/23 is forecast to decrease by about 16% to 5.9mmt due to drought, fall armyworm infestation, and high fertilizer prices
GMOs not welcome in Tanzania
The subject matter of GM foods has been one of the most important discussion topics in Eastern Africa, following Kenya’s lifting of the 10-year ban on the production, consumption and trade in GM foods in late 2022.
The government of Tanzania announced its intentions to step up vigilance against the importation of biotech crops in response to the announcement by Kenya, reinforcing its long-held belief that they are not welcome in Tanzania.
Former Minister of Agriculture, Prof. Adolf Faustine Mkenda had previously issued a directive to halt all GMO research trials in the country, expressing the government’s concern about creating seed dependence on foreign-based corporations, in January 2021. “Tanzania does not allow GMOs, because we have enough better seeds. We will protect our natural seeds, and the government will work together with our research centres to ensure we get better seeds,” he said at the time.
“We are not open to GM technology,” said the current Agriculture Minister, Hussein Bashe, continuing with his predecessor’s sentiments, adding that Tanzania does not promote or commercialise genetically modified crop varieties, as the country’s Hybrid and Open-Pollinated varieties are performing well.
“Currently, issues related to biotechnology are being widely researched so that people understand its handling and control as far as data collection and analysis are concerned,” he said. “But such trials will only be allowed for academic purposes, which in turn would help the country and its people to have a broad understanding of genetically modified varieties, especially the benefits and impact on the environment.”
According to the USDA, Tanzania’s wheat production in 2022/23 is forecast to fall from 100,000 MT to 65,000 MT due to the prevailing drought conditions, while the area harvested will drop 14 percent to 60,000 hectares, as farmers switch to beans in the Northern Highlands and to beans and peas in the Southern Highlands due to delayed rainfall. High fertilizer prices will likely deter proper fertilizer application and further suppress yields.
Wheat consumption will see a 2 percent increase in 2022/23 to 1.29 million metric tonnes due to higher levels of home baking, urbanization, and a growing middle-class. The country has witnessed a shift towards wheat consumption in urban and peri-urban areas, with urban areas accounting for 80 percent of its consumption.
As major urban centers like Dar es Salaam, Mwanza and Arusha create long-term demand growth for wheat products, there has been an exponential expansion of wheat processing facilities such as milling plants and bakeries.
The milling sector is led by the Azam Group, which has several milling plants in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. The Group’s recent investments include the expansion of its Buguruni Flour Mills, with a total milling capacity of 2250 MT per day and its new 400 MT per day wheat mill in the Zanzibar islands. Other significant players include Mohamed Enterprises, Camel Flour Mills and many other players. The animal feed sector is dominated by a large number of small players but a few standout players include the NutriGroup, which is owned by the BlackIvy Group from the US.
According to USDA, Tanzania’s overall wheat milling capacity currently stands at about 10,000 MT per day, compared to 6,000 MT in 2016, a significant growth in about 5 years, as demand for wheat products including flour, pasta, biscuits, and breakfast cereals rise significantly.
In terms of trade, Tanzania is largely dependent on imported wheat from Russia, Australia, Ukraine, Argentina, the EU, and Canada. 2022/23 will see a 4 percent increase in wheat imports to 1.2 MMT due to rising demand and drought-related decreases in domestic production.
The government estimates that in 2022/23, the total demand is 1 million MT.
Rice, an increasingly important part of the diet in Tanzania, after maize, wheat and cassava, will see production in 2022/23 fall 8 percent to 2.3 MMT due to drought conditions, while the area harvested will decrease to 4 percent to 1.1 million hectares.
Tanzania’s rice production has increased over time due to the impact of the 10-year GoT National Rice Development Strategy Phase II (NRDS-II), which has ambitious goals to double rice area to 2.2 million hectares and double productivity by 2030. According to USDA, the NRDS-II has made progress in boosting fertilizer use and expanding milling facilities, while new irrigation schemes are under construction; however, very few are operational as most are still not yet complete or suffer from water shortages.
Rice consumption is forecast to increase 4 percent to 2.59 MMT while imports are forecast to increase dramatically from 50,000 MT to 250,000 MT to offset drought-related declines in domestic production and to meet Tanzania’s growing demand, primarily from Pakistan, India and Thailand.
While exports are forecast to be minimal due to domestic production declines and high local demand this year, Tanzania is increasingly becoming a major source of rice into regional countries including Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, and occasionally Malawi and Zambia, either in the raw form, or increasingly, in processed and packaged formats. This has seen the proliferation of rice millers across the country, especially in the rice growing regions of the vast country.